On September 9, 1881, a young 19-year old Charles Albert Leonard left work at M. V. B. Finfrock’s Drug Store located at 66 N. Main St. and headed to supper as normal. It was noted that he ate very little and had been complaining about his stomach for about two weeks. Charles had, “expressed intention of calling upon his brother, J. C. Leonard, a cadet engineer, who had been visiting his brothers in the city.” Around 9 o’clock Charles had a brief conservation with his roommate, A. P. Remy, at H. L. Harrington’s hardware store where Remy was a clerk. Charles informed Remy he would be out unusually late because of the visit with his brother. After this he walked further up Third Street and then, sometime later, was seen walking back. This was the last time Charles Albert Leonard was seen alive.
Leonard’s brothers began contacting any place that they believed he would have gone to, including “the young man’s guardian at Mason, near Cincinnati.” No one had seen nor heard from him. Charles had an excellent reputation and always got along well with others. He “was a quite gentlemanly fellow who paid strict attention to his business and was fully trusted by his employers. He had no bad habits, whatsoever, and was generally respected as an upright young man.” Charles had no reason to leave and, based on the items he left behind, was expected to return home that evening.
On September 18, 1881, Walter Brashear, the ten year old son of James Brashear, was walking through Sherman’s Woods, better know today as Middle Park, a short distance from his father’s farm, with his dog. Walter’s dog became excited and began growling. When young Walter investigated the cause of the animal’s behavior, he came upon a bloated corpse lying at the foot of a tree. Walter ran to the homes of Mr. Claflin and Oliver Wise and told them of his discovery. According to The Herald the grisly site was visited by “thousands” that day.
Charles’s brother, W. L. Leonard, confirmed that the body was that of his brother. Though The Herald states that confirmation was made based on the clothes and style of hat worn, as “to recognize the dead man by his features was an impossibility, the skin of the face having, by exposure to the sun and rain, turned a deep black, while eyes, nose and mouth had become the abiding place of worms and flies. The body and limbs were bloated until the skin seemed ready to burst, and altogether the remains were a horrible sight to behold.”
When Dr. H. L. Hall, the coroner, arrived the pockets of the man were searched. The only items of value found were the keys to the door and safe of Finfrock’s and twenty-five cents. About 1 p. m. that day the undertaker, James A. Niman, arrived with the hearse and a coffin. The body was examined by the coroner, brought to the cemetery, and placed in the receiving vault. Family and friends reportedly requested a more thorough examination, but this was denied by the coroner and the body was buried. Coroner Hall suggested the young man committed suicide, but this opinion was not shared by the community and they felt the coroner fell short of preforming his duties.
A short time later the body was exhumed and a post-mortem examination was performed by Dr. A. J. Erwin. During the examination, a hole was found in the back of Leonard, entering between the sixth and seventh ribs, about two inches left of the spine and entering the right lung. It was determined by Dr. A J. Erwin that the injury was sufficient to cause death and the wound was a result of foul play.
Some residents nearby reported hearing screams and shrieks around the time of Leonard’s disappearance. Mrs. Wise reported she saw, around dusk one evening, a horse and carriage coming out of the woods and traveling up the lane. She could not recall the exact day, but, as the lane was rarely traveled during the day, the sight was rather peculiar, especially considering the death of young Leonard. A reward of $800 dollars was offered by the County Commissioners for the arrest and conviction of the murderer. The murder weapon was never found and any hopes of discovering the identity of the murderer died that night with Charles Albert Leonard.
The Ohio Liberal, 14 SEP 1881, p. 3 “Leonard Left”
The Mansfield Herald, 15 SEP 1881, p. 3 “Charles A Leonard”
The Mansfield Herald, 22 SEP 1881, p. 3 “Chas. A. Leonard”
The Richland Shield and Banner, 24 SEP 1881, p. 3 “The dead decaying body of Chas. A. Leonard”
The Ohio Liberal, 28 SEP 1881, p. 7 “Exhumed and Examined”
The Mansfield Herald, 29 SEP 1881, p. 6 “Murder or Suicide?”
The Richland Shield and Banner, 01 OCT 1881 p. 3 “Charles Albert Leonard”